United Nations hoping to deliver aid to Syria’s besieged areas ‘within 24 hours’

The United Nations is hoping to deliver aid to Syria’s besieged areas within 24 hours following an agreement between world powers to cease hostilities.

Seventeen world powers struck a deal in Munich to start to bring an end to hostilities in a week and provide rapid humanitarian access to besieged Syrian towns.

A new UN taskforce will meet in Geneva later to discuss the aid plan.

“We hope to start as early as [Saturday], immediately after the meeting, decisions will be taken to roll the aid in, especially to besieged areas that need it,” UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

“The UN system has been geared to deliver this aid all along, especially to besieged areas, and that’s precisely what’s going to be discussed today: how to start, and when to start.”

Mr Fawzi declined to say whether the deal had done enough for peace talks to be reconvened, adding that the ink was “not yet dry” on the agreement struck in Munich.

“You’re asking for certainty in a very cloudy situation. Politics is the art of the possible,” he told a UN briefing.

David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, said Syria is in desperate need of aid.

“You don’t wait a week for an emergency operation and the people of Syria should not have to wait a week for relief from bombings,” he said in a statement.

“We wait with eager anticipation to see whether this agreement is a turning point or a false dawn.”

Opposition says rebels must decide on ceasefire

A key Syrian opposition body said the proposed pause in fighting in the country would have to be examined and decided upon by rebel forces on the ground.

“The project of a temporary truce to halt hostilities will be examined with the rebel factions on the ground,” said George Sabra, a leading member of the High Negotiations Committee.

The HNC is an umbrella group of opposition bodies and figures formed in Riyadh to negotiate at peace talks in Geneva that collapsed earlier this month.

Mr Sabra said rebels in Syria “are the ones who will decide on the implementation of this truce,” adding “we are committed to this decision being taken by the HNC and the factions”.

He said that if the rebels agreed to the ceasefire and a UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to the targeting of civilians as well as aid access across Syria was implemented, then “the door will open to the resumption of talks in Geneva”.

The UN-sponsored peace talks opened in late January but struggled to get off the ground.

Negotiations collapsed after the opposition refused to hold talks without the UN resolution being implemented, and as regime troops backed by Russian air strikes launched a major operation around the city of Aleppo.

More than 260,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011.